Sebastopol mobile home park tests new model low-income housing
Yvette Morris was just starting a tour for two visitors Wednesday when she was overcome by emotion, tears flowing down her face as she asked: “May I show you around my home?”
Morris is a year and a half into her stay at Sebastopol’s Park Village, a city-owned mobile home park that has been transitioned into a unique hybrid housing model, accommodating both longtime residents and, at present, 14 formerly homeless people whose rent is subsidized by the city.
For Morris, 54, who was previously living in a broken-down motor home parked on the street, the project means a warm, secure home, one she keeps immaculate. It’s made a big difference in her life.
“People who are homeless need help,” she said. “If it weren’t for this place, I don’t know where I’d be. Probably dead.”
The housing project at the east edge of town, on the banks of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, is the result of a partnership between the city and West County Community Services, a nonprofit social services agency that manages the mobile home park, owned by the city since 2007.
Prior to the project, which began in 2017, there were 18 occupied mobile home pads and 8 unoccupied, as well as four vacant apartments. Over the past two years, trailers have been moved onto the free sites for the new residents, including Morris, who was one of the first occupants under the program.
The apartments are being renovated for rent to formerly homeless people later this year. Two additional trailer sites are also going to be added later this year.
Wednesday, city officials, West County Community staff members and advocates of the project gathered to celebrate the installation of a new meeting hall and social center on the site.
Though still relatively new, the initiative is being hailed by supporters as a low-cost solution for housing some of the area’s most financially vulnerable residents. They envision it as a model that could be replicated on other vacant, publicly owned land in Sonoma County.
“It’s an inexpensive way to get people housed really rapidly and then have on-site services like we have,” said Debra Johnson, board president of the West County Community Services. “There’s a need for that type of a situation.”
Morris is not alone in her appreciation of Park Village, a half-century old mobile home community once reputed for drug use and disorder despite its pastoral surroundings at the Laguna’s edge.
Another of the new tenants, James Lydecker, 55, lost his rented Roseland-area home and all of his belongings in a fire two years ago. He slept in a field for two years before he was invited to make his home at a spot in Park Village. He’s amazed by quiet of the neighborhood.
Another resident, a 47-year-old woman who gave her name only as Suzi, said she had been living in a broken down trailer on a property in Occidental. She paid $850 a month — most of her monthly disability check.
The trailer had no heat or water, and the door wouldn’t stay shut, so she slept with a knife. “It was not safe,” she said.